Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school.He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In high school I actually did a monologue from the opening chapter. You know the famous lines, “I am a sick man. I am a wicked man…”
The book is such a smooth and intuitive read that I feel like I’ve read this over and over again before (though this is only the second time I’ve read it.)
Every aspiring author has probably attempted to write something like this when they were younger.
Bup’s review (goodreads) perhaps said it best. “Every time someone in college writes some emo thing where there's no plot and where it's really deep and tortured, where the person thinks they've started the greatest novel ever, they should be forced to read Notes from Underground - at least the first 30 pages. Then they can see it's been done, it's been done as well as it can be done, better than they could possibly do it, and it still ain't all that great. Here's as good as it can get when you really don't have any experience at anything in the world. When you're trying to write what you know and you don't really know anything.”
I agree with almost everything, except the last part. This book is about something important, something that keeps getting written about because it needs to be written about -- modern society often values very shallow forms of success. The sensitive writer, often devoted to a different kind of success, become contemptuous of this mainstream world and its trappings.
Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey were about these things -- and reasonable people seem to rate these books by J.D. Salinger very low on Goodreads -- as if to say, why can’t these sissy writers give up the whole truth, beauty, and wisdom thing and just get a job already. Go to business school, be successful, and stop whining.
An Underground Novel has to do several things to be successful: it has to present a hero/ anti-hero who holds up alternative values. This is perhaps the most essential thing. This hero must falter in holding up these values, secretly longing for the simpler form of success presented by mainstream society. And finally, the hero/ anti-hero must suffer a tragic failure to show how horribly oppressive our dominant notion of success is.
These are probably not the only things, but these are the main things. Future books will try to do this. Some will succeed (Fight Club, Trainspotting!).
This is the very nature of the Underground Novel -- and as the model of an underground novel, this novel must be seen as a success, no? After all, we can’t judge it as “Notes from People Who are Overall Quite Successful, But Suffer From a Few Trivial Problems” (this would probably be closer to a sitcom). A novel must be judged on its own merits, I think. An Underground Novel can’t be anything other than it is -- a tragedy of the sick, whiny, and under-successful in a world that can’t see their virtues.
View all my reviews